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U.S.-Iran World Cup tensions culminates in key match as Americans must win to advance

It's showdown day at the World Cup for Team USA. The United States must win a match against Iran on Tuesday to advance in the tournament. 

If they don't win, the U.S. men's national team will head home. 

Tensions are high, and the tone for the game was set by a fiery news conference Monday where several Iranian state media journalists took aim at the team's coach and 23-year-old captain Tyler Adams – with questions about immigration, inflation and racism. 

A TV reporter called out Adams for mispronouncing Iran, and asked Adams, a Black man, if he is "OK to be representing the U.S." while there is "so much discrimination happening against Black people in America."

"My apologies on the mispronunciation of your country," Adams responded. "That being said, there's discrimination everywhere you go."

"In the U.S., we're, we're continuing to make progress every single day," he added.

Adams also said his team is focused on the match against Iran – the first time the countries have faced each other at the World Cup in over two decades. 

Back in 1998, Iran's team handed the U.S. team white roses as a sign of friendship despite political friction. In that game, Iran defeated the U.S. 2-1.

But this year's tournament takes place as anti-regime protests rock Iran following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran's "morality police" in September. Women and girls have led the widespread unrest, which is the most serious challenge to Iran's Islamic cleric rulers since they came to power in 1979.

"We empathize 100%, and we do support women's rights," said Team USA player Walker Zimmerman. 

Before Iran's first match at the World Cup, some Iranian players refused to sing the anthem of the Islamic Republic – a sign that they don't support the Iranian regime. 

Journalist Grant Wahl said Iran's players are feeling pressure.

"The Iranian team is not playing as well as they did in World Cup qualifying, and I think part of that is they're under a lot of stress," he said. 

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